Regular Contributor
Posts: 187
Registered: ‎12-20-2010
/></span><br/> <br/> <span style=We've had some real summer heat here in New England since last weekend. The kind of heat that says DO NOT turn the oven on, especially when there's no AC in the house. That kind of weather calls for lots of outdoor grilling and all kinds of salads.

I'll confess-there are very few pasta salads that I like. I guess because I always remember the bland mayonnaise-based ones that seemed to appear at every wedding and baby shower I attended. Between the finger sandwiches with the "salad" fillings, potato salad with mayonnaise and pasta salad with mayonnaise? I think I got "mayonnaised out."

When I make pasta salad, I want flavor and lots of it. A little mayonnaise is fine-but I usually gravitate toward recipes that use something else.

Knowing that there was going to be a stretch of hazy, hot and humid days, I stocked up on lots of fresh fruit and vegetables for sides to go with our meals.

I've been thinking about this pasta salad for a while now-I hadn't made it for a long time. I went poking in the cupboard and had everything I needed on hand, so decided to make a batch up to have for the week.

/></span><br/> <br/> <br/> <span style=I've been making this recipe for a few years now-we just love it. It has all the Southwestern flavors we enjoy in it, and can be adapted around the fresh vegetables that you have on hand. When I take this to a get together, people really enjoy it.....I always come home with an empty bowl.

Another plus-it's very easy to put together. I choose to use low fat Ranch dressing in this, and always use the lower sodium taco seasoning mix-that adds MORE than enough flavor for us. I also like the addition of some finely chopped red adds a nice background crunch.

The original recipe calls for adding shredded cheddar cheese-sometimes I add it, sometimes I don't-there is no cheese in this one pictured, and neither Bob or I missed it at all.

Since we aren't really black olive fans, I use a smaller can than the original recipe calls for. That was just the right amount for us

This salad has a nice complexity of flavors-the ranch dressing and taco seasoning are a wonderful blend and the lime juice and zest add a great fresh citrusy note. The rotini pasta holds that dressing SO well-and you get a nice mix of crunch and creaminess from the onions-both green and red-the buttery avocado and kidney beans, then a nice pop of freshness from the cherry tomatoes. I happened to have a can of green chiles on hand but when I don't, I mince a fresh jalapeno and add that in place of the chiles.

Bob grilled some chicken Sunday night which was a perfect partner to this salad. Chicken, a helping of this and a tossed salad on the side gave us dinner for a few nights with plenty left over for lunch. In fact we're STILL eating this salad and loving every single bite.

If you enjoy Southwest flavors and you want a little different pasta salad recipe to serve this summer, I hope you'll give this one a try.


/></span><br/> <br/> <br/> <span style=MEXICAN MACARONI SALAD
(Source: adapted from Pillsbury Annual Recipes 2007 cookbook-original recipe found HERE)

1 lb. rotini pasta, cooked, rinsed thoroughly with cold water and drained well
Grated zest and juice from 2 medium limes (about 1-2 Tbsp. zest and 3-4 Tbsp. juice)
1 c. low-fat ranch salad dressing
1 (1 oz.) packet lower sodium taco seasoning mix
2 medium avocados, pitted, peeled and chopped
1 pint (2 c.) cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 c. finely chopped red onion
4 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 medium green onions, sliced (including tops)
1 (15 oz.) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (2.5 oz.) can sliced black olives, drained and chopped
1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped green chilies, drained

Place the lime zest and juice in a small bowl. Add the ranch dressing and taco seasoning mix and whisk until well combined. Set aside.

In a large serving bowl, combine the well drained pasta with the avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, green onions, drained kidney beans, black olives and green chiles, lightly stirring until well combined.

Pour the dressing over salad; toss gently to mix. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving to allow the flavors to blend. 8 servings.

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